The Nature Journal Club: Pencil Miles and Chill with Yvea

The Pencil Miles and Chill gatherings have become a mainstay of the nature journal club during 2020. Yvea Moore will tell the origin story of the gathering in this conversation. We will also learn the main benefits of nature journaling community, tips for nature journaling beginners, and more!

What are “Pencil Miles”?

In the first place let’s define Pencils Miles. In essence, it is a phrase that emphasizes quantity over quality. Does that sound backwards? As a matter of fact, focusing on quantity over quality is one of the most powerful things you can do for any practice. In nature journaling and art for example, too much focus on the quality of your picture or page can lead to many bad habits. In contrast, If you focus on drawing a lot instead of making perfect drawings you will end up making better drawings. The expression “Pencil Miles” has become a neat way to summarize this concept for members of the nature journaling community. For other examples of the nature journal club’s specific lingo check out this post. Here is an example of a page from Yvea’s journal showing her putting in some serious miles. an example of copious pencil miles in the nature journal of Yvea who is an important member of the nature journal club

Origins of the Pencil Miles and Chill Meetup

The first seed of this community gathering was planted by Akshay and Gargi during the beginning of the pandemic. Gargi created a google doc where the nature journaling community could self-organize virtual meetings. Individuals could offer to host their own online gatherings using different platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc. Community members offered classes about different nature journaling subjects. Interestingly, some of the most popular were just free-from meetings where everyone could work on their own nature journal ideas and homework.

Activity on the spreadsheet began to lose steam around the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, Yvea had an idea during one of Brian Higginbotham’s Great Valley Nature Journal Club sessions. Brian asked people to write down their intentions for July. Yvea’s intention was finishing some of her nature journal pages. She decided to offer a space where others could do the same and could support and encourage each other. This evolved into her offering a weekly meetup for people to hang out and work on their nature journal pages. Pencil Miles and Chill was born.

What is Pencil Miles and Chill all About?

The Pencil Miles and Chill meetup only has one rule: be kind to each other. For the most part it is just a consistent time and (virtual)place for people to be together and work on nature journaling. There does not have to be a focus or a topic, instead everyone can work on their own project. Conversation is natural and sharing is encouraged but people can also just focus on their own work. For the most part it is like a virtual study hall for nature journalers. One last point about this group is the amazing inclusiveness and feeling of support that it offers. This is something that people in the nature journal club love about what Yvea is offering.

Top Benefits of Pencil Miles and Chill
  1. Providing community: One of the main benefits that people get from Pencil Miles and Chill and the Nature Journal Club Facebook in general is a sense of community. This was especially helpful during the isolating times of quarantine.
  2. Conversation: One specific aspect of community that people benefit from is conversation. Talking is fun and also allows for the sharing of ideas. This can keep us motivated as we nature journal.
  3. Providing consistency: Having 2 times a week that you know you will be nature journaling helps make it a habit.
  4. Technical support: When you are struggling with a specific issue you can bring it up and get ideas from other nature journalers.
  5. A place to relax: There are so many structured online classes for nature journaling that people sometimes get overwhelmed. Pencil Miles in contrast felt like a place you could relax into your own rhythm.
  6. The coveted book list: If I told you then it wouldn’t be coveted anymore. You will have to join Pencil Miles to find out ūüôā You can find out about the next Friday or Saturday session here.
Some of Yvea’s Tips for Nature Journaling Beginners
  1. Go easy on yourself.
  2. Take a break if you need to.
  3. How to not get intimidated by your journal or full page. Don’t worry about not filling a full page every time.
  4. Try a smaller sketchbook if you need to.
  5. Draw on lined paper. It makes you not worry about having precious paper.
  6. Find the things that motivate you. Find your “juice.” For more about “juice” and other mindset tips Yvea recommends looking at this mindset video I made.

Check out this pile of Yvea’s nature journals!A pile of nature journals belonging to Yvea Moore who started the pencil miles and chill nature journal club

Do you need help choosing art and nature supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps


Using My Words at International Nature Journaling Week

7 days.  7 themes.  When Bethan Burton announced the dates for the International Nature Journaling Week she created, I could hardly wait!  This was my first year attending it, and it left my naturalist soul humming.

First of all, Bethan made it so that the week was information-dense without being overwhelming; 2 workshops a day was the perfect amount to leave us satiated and yet still hungry for the next day. ¬†Second, having themes on each day allowed us to sink more deeply into those themes – words, pictures, numbers, “I notice”, “I wonder”, “it reminds me of”, and mindset – and process them more thoroughly. ¬†Moving at this pace allows us to integrate each piece more fully into our nature journaling practices.

Within all the richness of topics and techniques, two workshops stood out the most to me: Emilie Lygren’s “Words that Connect, Words that Shine” and Marley Peifer’s “Unlock the Power of Curiosity in Your Nature Journal”.

Yvea's questions
All the questions!

Words, Words, Words

Why those two? ¬†Words have long been my “bread-and-butter”. ¬†Nature journaling itself is only a few years new for me, but I have been playing with and exploring words since I was 3 years old. ¬†For many years, words were my only friends. ¬†And yet in spite of my deep connection to words, there is still room for me to grow.

Emilie’s workshop helped me rediscover my poetry roots – this time with a nature journal bent. ¬†It turns out that the core nature journaling prompt, INIWIRMO, is actually perfect for starting a poem! ¬†“I notice” can help us to look closer and truly experience the details of our subject. “I wonder”¬†helps us want to know more, and that same sense of wonder is why we fall in love with our subject and with nature. ¬†“It reminds me of” brings in the power of memory and, with it, connection. ¬†Of course these would be the perfect recipe for poetry!

Once you’ve made those observations and insights about your subject, you can combine them or reorder them to create a poem:

Yvea's sundew poem
My poem about a Drosera plant

If words are my “bread-and-butter,” questions are my “juice”. ¬†Like Fiona Gillogly, I can fill whole pages with questions, and doing so only increases my energy level. ¬†So when Marley offered new ways to examine and expand our questions, well, it felt a little like being offered nature candy. ¬†Playing with questions makes our thinking more flexible and stretches our brains beyond their previous boundaries. ¬†By doing that at every level and at every part of the nature journaling experience, to quote Amaya Shreeve, there can be “no end to the wonder.”

Marley's question techniques
Marley’s 10 techniques for expanding your questions

What Now?

Now that International Nature Journaling Week is done, it feels strange to go back to “Reality”, where we ¬†as a community don’t see each other twice per day or talk deeply about these topics. ¬†It would be easy for me to lose my motivation in light of the “post-adrenaline let down” feeling… But instead, I am reviewing my notes, adding things I thought of afterward, and looking forward to Marley’s next video – which is all about diving deeper into questions. ¬†I am keeping my brain and all the teachings from the past week active. ¬†Keeping that growth mindset.

For more information on “bread-and-butter”, “juice”, growth edge, and growth mindset, check out Marley’s class “Unlock Your Potential”, found here.

All the Nature Journaling Supplies from Wild Wonder Conference 2021

Below you will find all of the supplies from the 2021 nature journaling conference!

I did my best to find links where you can find all the nature journaling supplies. The intention is to have all of these in one place that is easy to look at for peopel who are going to take the classes still (video recordings post conference) or as reminders for people who took the classes during the conference. It will also be useful for people who did not buy tickets but want to know what supplies the different teachers used. I recommend buying directly from the teachers when possible, I have listed their online stores below. I have also included affiliate links to amazon for supplies that are available there. I will get a small percentage from purchases made there. Click on the link after the name of the art supply or book.

The classes are listed in order from the beginning of the conference and by name of teacher. Most of the text is copied from the teachers own writing I have added occasionally (note from Marley) before giving my own words or information.

Melinda Nakagawa “Journaling Marine Wildlife of Monterey Bay”: Journal: Canson XL Mixed Media spiral sketchbook, 7√ó10 size.
She also uses: John Muir Laws’ Sketchbook :

Platinum Fountain Pen. medium nib.
(Note from Marley: I am not sure which converter she uses but there are several that could be used to allow you to use the waterproof ink she recommends)
Carbon (waterproof) ink.
Pentel Aquash waterbrush, Medium
and Large
John Muir Laws’ Custom Palette:

Wendy Hollender “Botanical Sketchbook on Kraft Paper with Colored Pencils
Pencil Sharpeners:Recommendations to choose from:

Desktop pencil sharpener:some brands are: Muji ,CarlAngel-5(Rodahle or Q-Connect

Hand held pencil sharpener: Faber Castell Pencil sharpener in a box.
Graphite pencil. H lead. I like Tombow H pencil.
Erasers:Kneaded eraser
Tombow Mono round Zero Eraser
Small see thru Ruler for measuring: Westcott See ‚Äďthru ruler 12 inch

Colored pencils: Faber-Castell polychromos colored pencils (note from Marley: here is a set that contains most of her colors. Specific colors she mentioned listed below)
‚óŹCadmium Yellow 107‚óŹCadmium Yellow Lemon 205‚óŹPale Geranium Lake 121‚óŹMiddle Purple Pink 125‚óŹUltramarine 120‚óŹCobalt Turquoise 153‚óŹPermanent Green Olive 167‚óŹEarth Green Yellowish 168‚óŹEarth Green 172‚óŹDark Cadmium Orange 115‚óŹPurple Violet 136‚óŹDark Sepia 175‚óŹDark Indigo 157‚óŹChrome Oxide Green 278‚óŹRed Violet 194‚óŹWhite 101‚óŹIvory 103‚óŹWarm Grey IV 273‚óŹBurnt Ochre 187‚óŹVenetian Red 190‚óŹLight Yellow Ochre 183‚óŹBurnt Sienna 283‚óŹMadder 142‚óŹOlive Green Yellowish 173‚óŹBistre 170‚óŹDark Flesh 130Faber-Castell

Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils:¬† These have the same color names as the Faber Castell polychromos.‚óŹMiddle Purple Pink 125‚óŹPermanent Green Olive 167‚óŹDark Cadmium Orange 115‚óŹPale Geranium Lake 121‚óŹPurple Violet 136‚óŹDark Sepia 175‚óŹCadmium Yellow 107‚óŹBurnt Sienna 283‚óŹWhite 101‚óŹLight Yellow Ochre 183‚óŹWarm Gray IV 273‚óŹEarth Green 172‚óŹUltramarine 120

Verithin pencils:*Dark Brown , *Black *Gray 70%
Prismacolor White Pencil (Note from Marley: this is a 12 pack which is way cheaper than buying one by itself. Split with a friend or nature journal club)

Brushes:Watercolor brushes by Interlon in sizes: 0/3, 0, 6
Or mix of Waterbrushes from Pentel
Collapsible Water Cup by Faber Castell
Palette for mixing watercolor pencils:A sheet of Dura-Lar matte film for use with Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils as a mixing palette Or this awesome Caran d’Ache Aquarelle WatercolorPalette

Stonehenge Kraft Paper available in pads 9 x 12 inch size or 11 x 14 inch size . I make custom reclosable spiral binding pads that can hold refills of stonehenge kraft paper available at:
Small sheets of tracing paper any kind

Embossing Tools for paper Set of 1 -3 small sizes)¬† Frog prong flower holder (optional) Magnifying glass Draftsmen Mini Duster (Brush for wiping away debris) Recommended Text‚ÄúThe Joy of Botanical Drawing‚ÄĚ,by Wendy Hollender Art supplies available at:

Amy Schlesser “Doodling Diagrams” No supply list for this class but Amy recommeded this book. “Dear Data” Book: This book is also really good on diagrams:

Kristin Antonio “Microscopic Observations of the Natural World”
Portable Carson Micromini Microscope , Phone adapter Clip , foldscope

concave slides , covers, sample containers

Day 2 of the Nature Journaling Conference

Karen Romano Young “Telling Your Science Stories Visually” Karen did not give a list of supplies but here are some of her books and a great book about visual story telling and comics.

Understanding Comics
Her Books:
Try This , Bug Science, Shark Quest , Doodlebug , A Girl, a Raccoon and the Midnight Moon

Ryan Petterson “Virtual Fieldtrip: Geology of Death Valley”
Strathmore Visual Journal (mixed media, 9x12in) a basic ballpoint pen (Bic Cristal, 1.6mm).¬† ‚ÄúGeology Underfoot in Death Valley‚ÄĚ

Mattias Lanas “Field Sketching with Water Soluble Ink”
Pilot Black Razorpoint:
Sakura white Gelly roll (assorted sizes):
Sakura water brush (3 sizes):

Roseannn Hanson “Watercolor Made Simple!”
Paint (I do sell the Minimalist Paint Kit¬† I demonstrate with, but you can also compile your own. Yellow: a neutral, transparent, non-staining (‚Äúlifting‚ÄĚ) yellow. My favorite is Cobalt Yellow aka Aureolin (PY40).¬† Will also work: Hansa Yellow.¬† You don‚Äôt want a really warm yellow such as Quinacridone gold. Magenta: a cool, transparent, non-staining (‚Äúlifting‚ÄĚ) magenta. My favorite is Quinacridone Rose (PV19)¬† . Will also work: Quinacridone Magenta¬† . Note: you don‚Äôt want a red. Red is not a primary color!Cyan: a cool, transparent, non-staining (‚Äúlifting‚ÄĚ) blue. My favorite is Manganese Blue Hue (PB15) . Will also work: Cerulean (PB35)¬† or Manganese Blue by Old Holland (PB33).Burn Sienna:¬† I like Daniel Smith but any will do. Indanthrone Blue: a warm, transparent dark blue (PB60) . Tools Paint brush (any round-style will do) or water brushWater container (if not using water brush)Micro-fibre cloth or paper towels or old towel PLUS some kleenex Watercolor paper (loose or in notebook), minimum 90-pound weight. Cold-pressed is probably best for beginners. Strathmore 400 series 9X12 90lb cold press¬† Several squares of waxed paper for a fun way to do quick ‚Äúresists‚ÄĚ and a dull pencil to do the transfer

Day 3 of the Nature Journaling Conference

Emilie Lygren “Writing our Way to Wonder: Creating Poetry from Journal Entries” Emilie did not require any special materials but you can find her book of poetry here

Carol and Margaret Mackie “Making Your Own Journal: Easy Small Books for Nature Journaling” This awesome class had a very simple supply list you probably have at home. You can also check out their etsy shop

  • ¬†7 sheets of printer paper
  • ¬∑ scrap paper
  • ¬∑ glue stick
  • ¬∑ scissors
  • ¬∑ pencil
  • ¬∑ old credit card


Liz Clayton Fuller “Quick Bird Studies in Gouache”
Stillman and Birn Nova Series Tricolor Sketchbook, cool grey toned paper, 7×10‚ÄĚ

Р Size 8 Flat Brush (for laying down large areas of color)
Size 4 Round Brush 1 Round Brush (for detail and texture)

Р Ceramic palette for color mixing (any palette will do!)
Airtight palette (note from Marley: Liz did not mention this in her list but I think this is the palette she uses to store her paints. I put my gouache into a regular palette and it totally dried out and crumbled. During here class I saw that she was using two palettes, an airtight one for keeping the colors and another one for mixing. I’m pretty sure this is the airtight one she was using:

Р Small spray bottle for keeping gouache moist use promo code marley15 to get 15% off before July!
Two cups of water, one for clean water and one for rinsing brushes promo code marley15
(note from Marley: Below are the colors she has in her palette (bold colors were used in the class. I did not put links to each color tube individually but there is a palette that is similar: Holbein Set of 24 5ml tubes 
Р 1st row: Ivory Black
Zinc White, Terre Verte, Emerald Green, Permanent Green Deep, Cobalt Blue, Peacock Blue, Primary Cyan
Р 2nd row: Raw Umber, Chinese Orange, Flame Red, Alizarin Crimson, Opera Pink, Violet, Ultra-marine deep, Primary Magenta
Р 3rd row: Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Permanent Yellow Orange, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow, Permanent Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Primary Yellow

Erica Stephens ” Journaling the Jurassic: A Fossil Fieldtrip”
* Pencil & eraser (kneaded eraser)
* Journal ‚Äď preferably with connected pages in the middle (The Laws Sketchbook for Nature Journaling)
* Watercolors (Koi Watercolor Pocket Field Sketch Box, comes with water brush)
* A few different colors of gel pens, colored pencils &/or markers for the metadata (Artwerk gel pen set w/refills)(note from Marley: I spent a while trying to figure out which gel pens she is using, I could not find a brand called Artwerk but these gel pens seem to have a case with that name on them. 

Optional: Curiosity ..and love of dinosaurs! (note from Marley: I could not find where to get either of these online, supply your own.

Richard Louv Keynote Speaker

Richard did not mention any supplies but here are some of his books.
“Last child in the woods”
“The Nature Principle”

Day 4 of the Nature Journaling Conference

Painting Shiny Bugs Class with John Muir Laws
Big hat: Jack Recommends going to a garden store and picking the biggest brimmed hat that you can find. He recommends foldable synthetic type hats for durability, packability and longevity. Here is an example from the company Columbia:

All of these supplies are available on his website store:
Black Grape Prismacolor Pencil
Non Photo blue Pencil
Aquash Waterbrush
Blue Pencil he used for highlights (not sure what color but it was probably Prismacolor brand

Permanent White Gouache he uses, available if you buy his complete palette or you can just get the gouache here:

His Palette from his website:
Or the individual colors he used in the class
Pthalo Yellow Green
Pthalo Blue
Hansa Yellow Light
Quinacridone Gold
Winsor Violet

Mike Rohde “Creative Lettering for Your Nature Journal”
The Sketchnote Handbook:
The Sketchnote Workbook:
Gel pen or felt tip pen, medium (0.5 or 0.7mm is ideal) black Paper Mate Flair (his favorite pen) 12 pack of black :
Gel or felt tip pen, medium, your favorite color – mine is teal: Sakura Gelly Roll 5 colors including teal, pink, purple, blue, magenta .6 mm
Paper mate flair (his favorite pen) 24 Color pack:

Mark Simmons “Cartooning Techniques for Journaling”
– Sakura Pigma Microns (I like the chunky 08 size)
– Zebra Brush Pens (sometimes found under the “Zebra Zensations” brand) Variety pack with 4 types.
– white gel pens and Liquid Paper correction pens for highlights and touchup
(Marley prefers: Jumbo Correction pen for large Uniball Signo for Fine: Uni-ball Signo White Gel Pen:
– Pentel Aquash Water Brush: Pentel Waterbrush Large:
Art alternatives 11X17 Sketchbook:
Understanding Comics book:

Amy Tan “Backyard Chronicles”

(Note from Marley: No special nature journaling supplies are needed for her class but Amy did give this list of her favorite tools and books)

Favorite equipment
For in the field:

  • Custom Nature Journal Bag and Laws Sketchbook (both available in John ¬†Muir Laws’ store:
  • mechanical pencils: ¬† .5 HB, ¬† .5 4B, ¬†.7 HB, ¬†.7 2B, ¬†Pentel Twist-Erase Click Mechanical Pencil:
  • selection of ¬†Faber-Castell colored pencils stored in a small plastic case
  • sharpener, ¬†kneaded eraser, smudge stick, ¬†measuring tape, magnifying glass and small binder clips, stored in a pencil pouch

For journaling and sketching The Backyard Chronicles at home:

  • Fiorentina journal refills, ¬†unlined, ¬† 7 x 10. (6.25‚ÄĚ x 9.5‚ÄĚ), 288 pages ¬†(I use my own covers)¬† (note from Marley: this is the closest thing I could find to to the paper she mentions: )
  • mechanical pencils: ¬† .5 HB, ¬† .5 4B, ¬†.7 HB, ¬†.7 2B
  • Prismacolor colored pencils

For detailed bird drawings:

Bethan Burton “Skyscapitos: Mastering Cloud Shapes and Sky Colors
Arches watercolor paper Arches 300gsm cold pressed watercolour paper: (note from Marley…this paper is expensive but has a big effect on your results. I used my normal nature journal paper and some of the techniques that Bethan demonstrated did not work)
Washi tape or masking tape:
Masking fluid:
Staedtler Lumicolor permanent pencil: (note from Marley. I’m not totally sure this is the kind of pencil that she mentioned.)

Watercolor: (note from Marley: Bethan mentioned using any watercolor you have. I recommend Daniel Smith and have provided links to those examples of the colors she mentions) lighter blues (such as cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, manganese and pthalo) to achieve a convincing sky colour. We will also talk about darker blues (such as indigo, prussian or indanthrone blue)

Brushes: two flat brushes (6 mm ~#0 and 15 mm ~14# ) for making washes and a round brush (size 6) for adding detail

Dr J. Drew Lanham Keynote Speaker
Some books by him
‚ÄúThe Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man‚Äôs Love Affair with Nature‚ÄĚ (audiobook) Hardcover:
‚ÄúSparrow Envy‚ÄĚ

Day 5 of the Nature Journaling Conference

Vitor Velez “Even the Sky is Not the Limit: Creative Layouts”
Supplies coloring pencils from Faber-Castell(polychromos series): .Cold Grey IV.Black.Walnut Brown.Dark Phthalo Green. Here is a set that contains his colors and more.

Sterre Verbokkem: “Working with Toned Paper in Black and White
Strathmore Toned Paper:
Bic Mechanical Pencil. HB or 2B
Black ink or very dark watercolour too . Water brush
Fineliner pens.
Faber Castell white charcoal pencil (note from Marley: this pencil is the most essential tool to getting that uniqie style that makes Sterre’s work stand out.
Grey posca marker

Robin Carlson “Lively and Expressive Field Sketching in Brush Pen and Watercolor”
Fude Demanen Fountain Pen:
Pentel Pocket Brush:
Kuretake Fude pen #8:
Pentel Waterbrush Large (used with ink):
Carbon ink
Aquash gray

Kim McNett “Virtual Fieldtrip: Coastal Alaska”
Dry bags sea to summit :
Prismacolor non-photo blue pencil
Pentel Mechanical Pencil size 0.5 :
Micron Pens 01, 03 and05
Clear Pocket Ruler
Pentel Waterbrush Large:
Watercolors:-UltramarineBlue(MGraham) -CobaltBlue(MGraham) -CeruleanBlue(MGraham) -CobaltTeal(MGraham) -PermanentAlizarinCrimson(MGraham) -QuinacridoneRose(DanielSmith) -BurntSienna(MGraham)

Kate Rutter “The Sense-Ational Nature Journal”
Fudenosuke Brush Pen from Tombow.

Nature Journaling Prescribed Fire

Recently, I taught nature journaling at a prescribed fire training program in Quincy California. The North Complex fire, one of the biggest wildfires of the 2020 season, hit this area hard. In part due to this they are trying to get good fire on the ground in Plumas County. In fact, prescribed burns are the only practical way to prevent future catastrophic fires.

I will give some background on prescribed fire and show you how nature journaling can help. A lot went into making this: preparing the workshop, nature journaling and filming in extreme conditions, and hours of editing but I am really passionate about sharing this information with you.

Before the fire…

I knew I would be working with a different audience when I was invited to teach at the Plumas Cal-TREX. My goal was to share a valuable tool with this audience. That’s because I firmly believe that nature journaling is more than just a relaxing hobby that helps people connect with nature. In fact, nature journaling is a powerful tool that can help people in many fields including fire-fighters, fire scientists, land owners, and foresters.¬† It can improve observation, communicate ideas, and help make novel connections. This would be an opportunity for me to prove the practical application of nature journaling. We need to get nature journaling into the hands of more people. We need to apply nature journaling to more critical fields.

teaching nature journaling at a prescibed burn
Here I am teaching a segment about nature journaling to the prescribed burn participants
Some Background…

TREX is the prescribed burn training exchange program of the Nature Conservancy. These exchanges were started to deal with the shortage of trained people. Prescribed fire is the easiest and most cost effective way of reducing excess fuels. Excess fuels are one of the main causes of the catastrophic fires we have been seeing. However, there are not enough trained people. Therefore we need TREX. So far I have nature journaled at two TREX live fires.

participant in a prescribed burn putting down fire with a drip torch
Prescribed Fire practitioner laying down fire in “dots” on our burn day.

Plumas County Fire Safe Council put on the specific TREX event that I taught at. The goal of the council is to prevent loss of human and natural resources caused by fires. One way to do this is to use prescribed burns for reducing fuel. Logo for Plumas Fire Safe Council

The Mountain Maidu are the main indigenous people residing in the Plumas County area. They historically used fire to manage the landscape ecology and select for ethnobotanical resources. Most of California was managed with fire by indigenous populations and was essential for their food production and other resources. The suppression of fire by European Americans was a direct attack on indigenous livelihoods. Efforts to bring back prescribed fire and cultural burning in California is often be spearheaded by California Native groups. One example is the Eco-Cultural Revitalization program of the Karuk Tribe

Recent Fires in the Area

The North Complex Fire started on August 17th 2020 and grew to a perimeter  of 318,935 acres before being contained completely on December 3rd. The fire moved through the Plumas National Forest in Plumas County and Butte County.

In addition the devastating North Complex Fire, the Camp Fire burned through neighboring Butte County in 2018. This is the fire that devastated the town of Paradise California in November of 2018. It covered and area of 153,336 acres and destroyed more buildings and killed more people that the North Complex Fire. The drought in California was one factor that allowed for this fire. Normally the area would have received more rain by this late time in the year. I drove through some of the burn scar from this fire on my way to the Plumas TREX. I was also able to nature journal near Lake Concow in May and see the fire regrowth there.

Another Reason to Nature Journal Prescribed Fire

You might be asking yourself this question.

“Hey Marley! How does this kind of extreme nature journaling during a fire apply to me?”

That would be a good question. Some of you might live somewhere in which fire is not a big part of the local ecology. You might not be as mobile as I am or even have the access that I do. For this reason I like to bring it back to the average nature journaler. With this in mind I test techniques and supplies in extreme conditions. What I have found is that the things that work under duress will be easier to use in the average situation. This principle helps me recommend better techniques and supplies.

nature journaling at a prescribed fire
Me nature journaling on the burn day with prescribed fire practitioners.

For example, my main drawing tool worked great during the prescribed fire and is my favorite nature journaling tool. The gray and black ink allowed me to draw smoke, make text and images stand out, and create an appealing visual hierarchy.

nature journaling prescribed fire using a brush pen with gray and black ink to create the feeling of smoke
You can see how I used the gray ink to create the appearance of smoke and the black ink to show the foreground trees using the Pilot Futayaku Pen
Nature Journaling at a Prescribed Fire page showing notes and drawings with gray and black ink brush pen
You can see here how I created a visual hierarchy and page composition with the gray and black ink.

So obviously the Pilot Futayaku Brush Pen is a good choice but what about choosing other art and nature supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Post-Fire Nature Journaling Workshops with Laurie Wigham
nature journaling at a prescribed burn, Laurie Wigham teaching Quincy community members how to use art as a way to process and connect with areas that burned recently around their homes
Laurie Teaching Nature Journaling and other art techniques to locals in an area that burned in the North Complex Fire.

In addition to teaching nature journaling to the prescribed fire participants there was also a community art workshop led by Laurie Wigham. Laurie is an experienced urban sketcher and nature journaler. She taught workshop attendees how to observe degrees of burn severity and also how to use twigs dipped in ink for drawing. This was a free workshop for the local community of Quincy California and was sponsored by the Plumas Fire Safe Council. As I assisted Laurie I soon realized with the therapeutic role that nature journaling could play for people who had traumatic experiences with fire. Recently, Miriam Morrill, John Muir Laws, and Scott Amick organized a mini conference on the potential for combining nature journaling with a trauma-informed therapy approach for communities affected by fire. You can see the sessions on youtube here.

Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

here is a view of an aread that burned in the North Complex Fire and some green regrowth from a shrub that survived
Regrowth is apparent at the base of a tree that looks dead in this area that was hit hard by the North Complex fire.

Nature Journaling After a Fire

Let’s practice nature journaling after a fire in Northern California. We will explore the regrowth in Annadel State Park after the 2020 Glass Fire.

So you might be asking: “How can nature journaling be applied to wildfire?” Actually, the powerful thing about nature jouranling is that it is a perspective or a tool more than a subject matter. This perspective can be applied to lots of things. In effect it improves our ability to observe. As it turns out a nature journal can be a great tool to help us:

  • learn about fire ecology
  • prepare for wildfires
  • help change the narrative around fire
  • and even to heal from traumatic experiences with fire

In addition to the above benefits nature journaling can help fire professionals as well as contributing to citizen science about fire. Equally important, nature journaling can help Californians and others create resilient fire adapted communities. To learn more about this increasingly important topic check out this article by Miriam Morrill at the Fire Adapted Network.

I have been able to nature journal live fire in several prescribed burn situations. This has been possible thanks primarily to Miriam Morrill and her program Pyrosketchology. These experiences have led me to use my nature journal to investigate more through a fire ecology lens. I have also been invited to teach nature journaling at Cal TREX prescribed burn training exchange programs for the Plumas County Fire Safe Council in 2021.

nature journaling after a fire in Annadel State Park
Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat
The 2020 Glass Fire

The Glass Fire was one of the fires that hit Northern California in the 2020 fire season. First starting in Napa County near Glass Mountain Road it quickly spread into Sonoma County. The fire grew to 11,000 acres in one night. Significantly for me, several areas that I nature journal burned in the fire. Partly for this reason I decided to nature journal there in the following spring. Learn more details about the Glass Fire here.

Nature Journaling After a Fire: Safety Concerns

When nature journaling in an area that has recently seen fire there are a few things to keep in mind. Local agencies will generally close areas until they are deemed safe after a fire. However, you should always be responsible of your own safety regardless of what the signs say. Here are a few tips. Luckily, nature journaling makes you more aware of your surroundings ūüėČ

  1. First of all, you should beware of holes in the ground. Tree roots are sometimes consumed by fire leaving openings underground.
  2. The most hazardous thing after a fire is dead trees and their branches. Weak branches can fall at a later time. Pay attention to what is above you especially if it is windy.
  3. You should prepare yourself for changed trail conditions.
  4. Lastly, you should pay attention to the weather. Flash floods and debris flows are possible in areas that have lost vegetation then experience intense rain.

These safety concerns should not prevent you from nature journaling after a fire. Nevertheless it is good to be informed. Not everything you should look out for is a hazard. Next, I will show you some things you

nature Journaling after a fire: what to look for

  1. Fire-Following Flowers. First, lets look at flowers. Some flowers will only come up after a fire. I enjoy looking for these species and recording them in my nature journal. This is a classic thing to do in a post-fire area. Do you want to see a whole video about this?
  2. Succession Ecology. Second, let’s look at succession. Disturbance and regeneration are important parts of nature. Succession is the study of these regenerative patterns.
  3. Fire-Tracking. Third let’s hire a detective. Sherlock Holmes would be a great companion on your post-fire nature journaling trip. You can also look for clues, use deductive reasoning, and make hypotheses about how a fire moved through the area. I share some of these techniques in the video.
  4. Mapping Burn Intensity. You can learn about fire in a more nuanced way by looking at the variation in burn intensity. Fire never burns an area homogeneously despite how it is conceived in popular imagination.
  5. Fire Phenology. Phenology is the study of seasonal patterns in nature. You can add a phenology wheel to your nature journal.

nature journaling after a fire landscape showing a hill that burned in the 2020 glass fire

Nature Journaling Post-Fire Ecosystem Change

I have talked about nature journaling ecosystem change in other videos. For example, I interviewed Robin Carlson several months ago about her nature journaling practice. Robin has nature journaled in the same area for several years. The Stebbins Cold Creek Preserve burned in the 2015 Wragg fire. Robin has documented ecosystem change in the area since the fire. As a result she has learned a lot in addition to contributing to citizen science. You can learn more about her Wildfire to Wildflower project here.


Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you need help choosing nature journaling supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not



Birding Homework (live episode)

Do you ever give yourself nature journaling homework?  In this live episode of the Nature Journal Show, Marley shows us how to use birding homework to make us better nature journalers.  Follow along!  You will need: your nature journal, a writing utensil of your choice, a bird guide book, and your computer.

‚ÄúWhether you‚Äôre in the field learning or at home learning – the nature journal is the perfect place to make your learning so much easier, your work so much better, and improve your memory so much more.‚ÄĚ

Marley comes prepared with an agenda:
  1. First, he sets up his page so his information stays organized.

    Marley sets up his Sparrow Study
    Marley sets up his page for the sparrow study, using a grid to separate and organize the information for each species.
  2. Second, he uses the bird guide to draw quick sketches of the birds he wants to study. ¬†Marley’s tools of choice:¬† Pilot Futayaku gray and black brush pen (his favorite!). Tombow brush pen in pale gray.¬† Pentel waterbrush size large. John Muir Laws’s custom watercolor palette.
  3. Third, he reads the descriptions in the bird guide and adds notes to his journal.  Here, Marley references the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America.
  4. Fourth, he listens to the birds’ songs on Dendroica and creates a sonogram of what he hears.
Marley uses Petersons for his Sparrow Study
Marley uses a bird guide book to find and write characteristics and details about the sparrows in his birding homework.

Why do homework this way?

Why not simply read about the birds in the guides or on a website? ¬†What purpose does it serve to write all of this down when it’s not even your own field notes? ¬†Marley has an answer for this: by writing down the information and interpreting it into your own way of thinking, you remember it better. ¬†This is not busywork – you are training your brain to remember these details so they will serve you when you are out in the field.

Marley notes that it’s important to write down your sources for this information: “Think of it as your metadata!” ¬†It is OK to copy from the book as long as you are not selling your work – but you should always credit your sources. ¬†That way, if you need to revisit or modify the information, or if someone else wants to study it too, you know where it originally came from.

Using Dendroica's spectrogram
Marley uses Dendroica’s spectrogram feature to help him “see” the birdsong

A few extra tips

  • When you’re doing your birding homework, don’t worry about making your drawings perfect. ¬†This is practice, and getting hung up on perfection might make it harder for you to complete the exercises.
  • Some birds, such as sparrows, have different dialects depending on where they are from. For example, a white-crowned sparrow from your area might sound very different from a white-crowned sparrow who lives somewhere else, so try to find a song sample that’s from your region. ¬†If you can‚Äôt, try listening to multiple song samples from different areas and seeing where the similarities in them fall.
  • Use “it reminds me of” when you are listening to bird songs. ¬†You can liken a particular note of the song to an instrument, or even to words. ¬†Many birders hear phrases inside the songs that help them to remember their rhythm and cadence.
  • Listen to the song more than once. ¬†Really slow down, and use the spectrogram to help you “see” the song.
  • Drink coffee.
birding homework sparrow study
The birding homework is done! For today…

Now that you’ve done your birding homework, go out into the field and try to use what you’ve learned! ¬†You can always go back and add notes when you’ve learned something new, or do more birding homework to further improve your skills. ¬†Interspersing homework with field study might just be the way to go. ¬†Don’t forget your binoculars!


To meet another nature journaler who is also a birder, check out Marley’s interview with Christina Baal.

Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you need help choosing nature journaling supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Nature Journaling Reptiles

Nature journaling reptiles is one of my favorite things! Let’s sketch and learn about these animals together with Rachael from Doodlebugs animal adventures. Rachael will share Russian tortoises, weird frogs, as well as a legless lizard! In addition, I will share some other reptile nature journal pages below.

Rachael Wallman is a biologist, mom, and animal lover. She runs Doodlebugs Animal Adventures an animal education business. There are a lot of cool animals living in her house. However, for today’s show we are just going to focus on the reptiles and amphibians.

Nature Journaling Reptiles when they keep moving?!

By this point you might be asking: “How can I draw moving animals?” While Rachael holds up her animals and shares info about them I do my best to capture quick sketches and notes. Here are several tricks I use in this situation:

  1. First, start as soon as possible. The longer you wait to start sketching and nature journaling the harder it will be to start.
  2. Next, think of your drawings as diagrams instead of as definitive works of art. Diagrams can be drawn quickly and capture lots of info.
  3. Draw fast. Draw a lot. Similarly to the last point this takes pressure off your drawing. In reality, if you just keep your pencil moving and you keep looking at your subject then you are succeeding. You are learning. That is what nature journaling is all about.
  4. Fourth, don’t get obsessed with details. Many amphibians and especially reptiles are covered in complex patterns and textures. Trying to capture these details from a moving animal will drive you crazy. Instead, try to capture gesture drawings of the basic shapes and essence of the animal.

    nature journaling reptiles at the san francisco zoo where they have a komodo dragon, the largest living lizard in the world. I use many quick sketches to try to capture the essence of this reptile as I try to draw it live. It was moving a lot. I added the color afterwards to the drawing.
    I kept my pen moving as I tried to capture the shapes of this komodo dragon as it kept moving. I added the color afterwards.
  5. Break your subject up and focus on small parts at a time. For example try just drawing the eye over and over again.
nature journaling reptiles is easier when you try to focus on small parts at a time. You can draw just they lizard eye over and over again for example.
Nature Journal Page of Polychrus marmoratus aka monkey lizard
The Reptiles we nature journaled in this episode
  • The Russian Tortoise was the first reptile we nature journaled in this episode.
  • Rachael took out her big adult gopher snake next! This one was moving slightly less than the tortoise but presented other challenges.
  • We looked at her Crested Gecko next! This animal was super fun and kept licking its eyeball and jumping onto the camera!
  • Then it was finally time for an amphibian with a “Dumpy Frog.”
  • Last but not least we nature journaled a legless lizard!

Learn more about Rachael’s animals and learn from her entertaining posts on her instagram

Do you live in the Orange County area of California? I suggest you check out Rachaels in-person classes or bring her to your school, library, etc! Kids love them! Learn more here.

nature journaling reptiles and how to draw reptiles with doodlebugs animal adventures

If you are just getting started with nature journaling check out this post : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Here are some more example pages of nature journaling reptiles in other situations
example page of nature journaling reptiles looking at a live lizard and doing many sketches trying to capture the head shape of this Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana.
Nature journal page drawings of a Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana. This species was not moving much but I still used some of the same tactics outlined above.
nature journaling reptiles example page showing snake drawings I did from life of captive amazonian puffing snake
Part of a nature journal page showing sketches of puffing snake heads. You can see how I added details to some of the gesture sketches. Despite the fact that this snake was not moving much I still used the same tactics mentioned for how to draw moving reptiles.
nature journaling rattlesnake juvenile in the field.
Here is a page where the reptile was not moving much but I still had a short amount of time to nature journal because it was a field-herping trip. You can see that I separate my drawings, focusing on different elements of the rattlesnake in different micro-drawings. I do several small drawings of the head. I do a side view of the pattern and I even do a drawing showing the snake on a rock and my friend’s hand offering it water.

The Polychrus, Uranascodon, and Amazonian Puffing snake were all nature journaled in the reptile room of my friend Roy. You can check out his herpetoculture practice and species in his care on instagram here. If you are interested in nature journaling reptiles it is a good option to find people who raise reptiles and ask to visit their reptile room. Another option is to go to reptile shows or herpetology clubs.

Intertidal Zone Nature Journaling

What do you like to do during the low tide?  If you’re like Marley Peifer, you might enjoy going to the rocky shore, doing some nature journaling of the intertidal zone, and maybe even harvesting dinner!  Join Marley as he explores the intertidal zone.

Tidepools are a dynamic place to visit, changing rapidly with the ocean and weather.¬† Marley is quick to note the high ‚Äúinformation density‚ÄĚ:¬†

‚ÄúThe main intellectual challenge in nature journaling at the tidepools is: there is so much information density, so many things to look at, so many potential subjects to choose from, that your main challenge is going to be focusing!‚ÄĚ

Marley nature journaling intertidal zone
Marley surrounded by mussels nature journaling the low tide
Safety is #1.

Focusing on any one topic at the intertidal zone is one challenge; the other (arguably more important) one concerns logistics.¬† It is vital to remain aware of your surroundings at all times when you‚Äôre this close to the ocean.¬† The rocks are slippery and easy to fall on; the uneven terrain can catch your foot and get you stuck; and the ocean itself can catch you with its powerful waves.¬† ‚ÄúNever turn your back on the ocean,‚ÄĚ Marley is explaining – right as the ocean splashes him on the butt.¬† He notes that it is better to come with a friend when exploring the rocky shore or intertidal zone.

Intertidal zone nature journaling page
Zoom-in drawing of a mussel. Watch your step!
So where do you start?

Despite the information density, Marley has a plan!  He follows a setup that helps him get information down quickly without getting overwhelmed:

  1. First, he situates himself so that he can observe safely and as comfortably as possible, and he secures his nature journal with binder clips so the pages won’t fly around while he’s journaling.
  2. Second, he takes down the metadata: when and where he is, and what the weather is like.
  3. Third, he makes a landscape rendering of the place, which really helps to set the scene.
  4. Fourth, he zooms in on a subject.  In this case, it’s one that isn’t moving, which allows for a longer time to observe the subject directly.
  5. Fifth, he keeps his awareness of his surroundings and of any exciting fast-moving natural developments he might want to observe.
Intertidal zone nature journal page
Metadata and landscape of the intertidal zone

Later, he uses his close focus binoculars to try to observe a turnstone Рmostly because the bird is far away and he wants to observe it before it flies off, but also because it is safer to observe from a distance, out of the ocean’s reach.  Unfortunately the bird flies away very quickly, but Marley uses the information he has to make a memory drawing.  By recording as many details as he can recall, Marley is cementing those details in his mind.  He is also making it easier for himself to try to research the bird when he gets home.

bird memory drawing in the intertidal zone
A drawing of a turnstone bird from Marley’s memory
How to nature journal a landscapito of the intertidal zone:

Marley has some tips for capturing a landscapito of this special location.  For more landscapito tips, check out Marley’s earlier post here.

  • Punch in your dark values first, being mindful to reserve your whites.¬† To capture the dark shapes in his landscapito, Marley uses a Pilot Futayaku Brush pen.¬†
  • Put more details in the foreground; this is where the eye is drawn.
  • Put in only the suggestion of water at first.
  • When you begin using the watercolors, put in your lightest values first.¬† In this case, that would be both the sky and the ocean, which Marley puts in at the same time.¬† He uses John Muir Laws‚Äôs watercolor palette, which you can find here, and a Pentel large waterbrush.
  • Add the darker values in the foreground.
  • Now give this first layer of watercolor time to dry; the humidity near the ocean will make your page dry slower than you might be used to.
  • Adjust any values and saturations after the first layer has dried.
  • If needed, add back in your whites.
Marley’s intertidal zone landscapito

When it comes to adding white back into the landscapito, don’t be hard on yourself. Reserving whites is challenging and takes practice!  You can add the whites back in using an opaque media, like the Presto Jumbo Correction Pen Marley uses. Always test the opaque media off to the side first before using it on your main piece, and be sure to stop before you actually feel ready.  Otherwise playing with the correction pen might get too fun, and you might overdo it.

Marley’s practice and pencil miles pay off: he is able to get pages of rich information about his intertidal adventure AND harvest dinner!  ¡Buen provecho!

If you are just getting started with nature journaling check out this post : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Nature Journaling Kid

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to nature journal all day, everyday? Does such a dream seem unattainable and far-fetched? Let our resident nature journaling kid, Raybonto, show you how he does it.

This week, Marley set out to answer the question: Who is Raybonto?

When Marley sat down to interview him, Raybonto was quick to show him his recent pages.  First was a field sketch of a tree: he wrote down and labeled the colors he saw, drew himself into the picture, and then estimated in feet the height of the tree. He also did a blind contour, something he says he almost never does in his nature journal, and then he followed up with a values sketch. On that particular day, he did not have any colors with him.

Raybonto's tree study
Raybonto does a field sketch of a tree.

‚ÄúYou can label them and color them back home if you can‚Äôt color them in the field, or you can just color them from your memory.‚ÄĚ

Later, he was inspired by Marley’s video about how to nature journal while standing up.  

Nature Journaling Kid, Raybonto, sketching while standing
Raybonto uses his bicycle to hold his nature journal steady while he sketches.
Raybonto learns from different teachers

One of the youngest active nature journalers in the community, Raybonto is also one of the most fearless.  Regularly attending classes taught by John Muir Laws, Brian Higginbotham, Melinda Nakagawa, Yvea Moore, and others, Raybonto soaks in their ideas and practices like a sponge before making them his own.  Often, he brings up other naturalists and artists whose work he has studied.

Want to meet a nature journaling teen? ¬†Check out Marley’s interview with Amaya here.

Raybonto fills the whole page

One thing that stands out about Raybonto is the way he uses the space of each page.  Recently John Muir Laws had taught a class on botany, so Raybonto showed Marley his notes.  There were at least 20 individual sketches over the two-page spread, as well as color swatches in every available space.  When Raybonto draws, he doesn’t get tied down to any one drawing; instead he fills his pages completely, drawing a subject multiple times, from different angles, sometimes using different media with each sketch.  He keeps two main sketchbooks: a practice sketchbook, and a field journal.

Nature journaling kid Raybonto's page of snakes

He has also been experimenting with toned paper, using both colored pencils and watercolor.  That brings his total of active sketchbooks to three.

Raybonto is not afraid to experiment

Before his current notebooks, Raybonto had previously been using a watercolor pad as well, though he found he was not able to be as diverse with his media on it.  He felt he had to always include watercolor on the paper, so changing to a different journal allowed him to use whatever media best suited him at any particular time.  

He experiments with any and all media he can get his hands, whether it’s¬†regular paper, toned paper, colored pencils, watercolors, or a 12B graphite pencil – his current favorite. ¬†By experimenting with so many different media, Raybonto all but guarantees he would be able to pick up almost any tool and be able to nature journal with it. ¬†This only adds to his resiliency as a nature journal.

nature journal kid Raybonto draws horses

Raybonto nature journals every single day

For many of us, nature journaling every day might be a goal set too high.  We have other obligations in our lives, and it might feel impossible to squeeze time in for time in nature.  There is no need to beat ourselves up for this.  At the same time, it is more than OK to let Raybonto inspire us. He more than makes the time for nature journaling; rather, it appears he makes nature journaling the center of his day and schedules everything else around it.  Raybonto truly exemplifies devotion and treating nature journaling not as a hobby, but rather as a way of life.

nature journaling kid Raybonto's pencil miles
Our nature journaling kid, Raybonto

If you are totally new to nature journaling you can get started here with how to nature journal in 10 steps.



How to Nature Journal a Collection

Right now, I’m going to show you how to nature journal using the “collection” technique. This is one of the basic nature journaling approaches. You can use it even if you are just getting started with nature journals. Experienced nature journalers will also benefit from this technique.

The basic idea is simple. You are out walking in a nearby park. You brought your nature journal but don’t know where to start. There are birds everywhere, there are wildflowers, and you also notice tons of lichen on the trees. “This is kind of overwhelming!” You think to yourself.¬† “I only have 20 minutes for nature journaling.” What should you do?

How to Nature Journal a Collection

  • First, you need to choose the category for your collection. The category can be taxonomical, such as plants in the sunflower family (asteraceae), or a collection of warblers. The category could also be “things growing on other things.” In this case you would “collect” lichens, mosses, epiphytes, or fungus.
  • Second, think about your page organization. Do you want to divide your paper up into squares right away? How do you want to organize the individual subjects of your collection?
  • Third, think about how much time you have and how in depth you want to get with each subject of your collection. If you start off putting in a ton of information and details with the first few subjects and then simplify dramatically with the last few it will look bad.
  • Fourth, start drawing and nature journaling the individual subjects. Use words, images, and numbers for each one. Try to keep a consistent style to facilitate comparison and make the collection look better.
Examples of Nature Journal “Collections”
An example of a nature journal collection with birds for how to nature journal a collection
A nature journal collection by Paula Peeters quickly captures bird species that she heard during her nature journaling session in Australia.
A nature journal collection showing different species of mushrooms
A nature journal collection with 10 different mushrooms collected over the course of an hour. Marley Peifer’s nature journal.
Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not